A PCT Comic? Rock On, Rocket Llama!

Rocket Llama at the southern terminus posing with "remorse and a little bit of shame; look at the size of that pack".

Rocket Llama at the start of the PCT with a heavy pack that she’ll later lighten up.

Since coming off the PCT last October, Alejandra Wilson, better known by her trail name, Rocket Llama, has been illustrating notable people and moments from her hike in comic form. Her colorful depictions are online and are worth a look. The comics follow the adventures of Rocket Llama’s comic self and are based on real experiences. Some of Wilson’s comics are decidedly humorous, while others forgo speech balloons and capture a quieter, even melancholic mood. Each comic can be read individually, but when put together, they weave a far more complete story of Wilson’s hike as she introduces and develops recurring characters. In an effort to learn more about her unique expression of trail life, I contacted Rocket Llama and conducted a brief interview via email:

When did you decide to create the comics?

I had my first idea for a strip after I left Lake Isabella. Some shenanigans ensued there (involving a precarious hitch, the Discovery Channel, a gallon jug of rum and a homeless man named Steve), and as I pondered the events of the day, my brain translated everything into comic-format. This subconscious scripting continued to happen along the way until I had a small but vivid collection of one-off comic strip ideas. By the time I hit Oregon, I had pretty much decided to illustrate the whole thing.

How many comics do you plan to create?

It’s hard to say how many pages the comic will be by the time I reach the end. I’m planning on illustrating my whole trip – from Campo to mile 2,253 and everything that happened in between – and some of the things that happened after. So far, it’s taken me 15 pages to cover the first 110 miles and Comic Llama still hasn’t left Warner Springs yet. So this could easily be a 300-page comic….or more! Or less! Probably more.


To whom, or to what can you attribute your artistic style?

Artistic style is a tricky subject. It’s like a fingerprint – a fingerprint that includes a lifetime mash-up of every drawing you’ve ever made and every cartoon you’ve ever liked and all the lessons and critiques you’ve applied along the way. I learned how to make comics as a kid by reading the Sunday funnies, like Mutts and Garfield and Get Fuzzy, and I spent most of my teen-hood with my nose in How to Draw Manga books, which is a terrible way to learn how to draw. There’s no foundation in reality. A few years in college art classes straightened that out. I’m not trying to emulate anything exactly, but styles I like definitely sneak their way into my work – I’m a fan of Pendleton Ward of Adventure Time fame, for example, and sometimes I’ll express this by drawing noodle arms or in the way I depict myself in a sleeping bag. Not because I can’t draw arms or sleeping bags but because I really like the way Pendleton Ward does it and it captures the feeling I want to express.

Did you plan the comic topics while you were on trail or were they created after the fact?

When I got home, I went through all of my journals. I kept a handwritten journal on the trail and an online journal that I updated from town and whenever an entry or a memory inspired an idea for a strip, I wrote it down. I have a lot of ideas. I actually did draw a full-page cartoon titled Adventures with Team Vortex in a PCT register at one of the post offices in South Lake Tahoe, just ’cause I was in the mood…also because it was raining outside.

Anything else regarding the comics that you’d like to share?

Unfortunately, even though it’s a new comic, readers should probably know that Rock On, Rocket Llama is going to go on hiatus pretty quick because I’m hiking the whole PCT again in 2014. But assuming I’m not eaten by a bear or buried alive in another fluke snowstorm, it’ll resume when I come home in the fall. I’d like to pursue comics and art more professionally in the future, and I have a feeling that RORL is the project that will get me there, one step at a time. Like that first day out of Campo, this is only the beginning.

 Right now, Rock On, Rocket Llama can be found on tumblr and DeviantArt, and also has its own facebook page.

Check out her website for more great comics!

Check out her tumblr for more great comics!

Author: Korbi Thalhammer

Korbi is a long-time volunteer with the Pacific Crest Trail Association. He’s currently working in our Sacramento office between high school and a summer 2014 thru-hike of the PCT. He coordinated PCT maintenance through his high school and has travelled multiple times to Washington D.C. to advocate for congressional support for the trail.